Chain restaurants have loyal patrons, a well-refined menu and name recognition. Many have large marketing budgets and are visible on TV, the Internet and billboards. In many markets, these restaurants are the primary competitors for privately-owned restaurants. Regardless of whether you are launching a new restaurant or you are struggling to bring customers into your established venue, you understandably need develop an effective strategy to compete with popular franchises and chains.
While well-known chains and franchises have popular menu items that may be heavily advertised, you have the unique ability to offer menu items that may be more specialized. For example, regardless of whether you run a coffee shop, a steakhouse or another type of venue, you can source ingredients locally and give your entrees and beverages catchy, locally-inspired names. By doing so, you appeal to the community in a way that chains and franchises cannot. You also have the flexibility to adjust your menu seasonally.
Many people enjoy being entertained while they eat or drink, so bringing in local talent for life performances is a wonderful idea. For example, a solo musician may perform for a few hours at a local coffee shop, and a larger band may perform on an outdoor patio during Happy Hour. When bringing local entertainers into your venue, ensure that their music is well-suited for your ambiance and clientele. Other entertainment ideas for casual venues include open mic night and amateur comedian events.
In addition to using these thoughtful strategies, update your ambiance so that it appeals to the local community. For example, feature artwork from local artists on the walls, or use photographs of famous landmarks for wall art. Incorporate colors, furniture styles and materials, patterns and other decorative elements that your area is known for. Lighting and music should also be well-suited for the environment and your clientele. When your restaurant or café has a memorable personality that targets local patrons, they may immediately feel connected to your establishment and may remember it later when they are trying to decide which venue to dine at.
At first glance, it may have seemed as though your restaurant had a distinctive disadvantage in the marketplace compared to well-known franchises and chains. However, when you apply these strategies to your privately-owned venue, you may gain a competitive edge and make your venue a preferred option for local diners.